[linux-elitists] Open-sourcing a book

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Thu Mar 22 12:59:58 PST 2001


begin  Mr . Bad quotation:

> http://opencontent.org/openpub/
> http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html

I'm not yet convinced that they're not appallingly over-complex.


I've always felt it important that "open" licences be understandable
by a fairly broad audience.  One distinctive aspect of the open-source /
free-software community is that we read licences and take them
seriously, rather than skulking about, half-wittedly agreeing to things
without reading them and hoping to slide through the cracks.

The key question in licensing, with books as with software, is what
you're trying to achieve.  I've grappled with this, concerning some of
my on-line essays, and have no easy answers.  Following are sundry
thoughts on document-licensing generally:


My "rants" page (http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/faq/) and my "Recipe for 
a Successful Linux User Group" article
(http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/essays/newlug.html) _originally_ had just:

    Copyright (C) [date] Rick Moen.

Both include some technical information that others might wish to use
and further develop, and are "living documents" in the sense of needing
to be updated.  Some people wanted to quote from them, or mirror(!) the
things, and they kept having to ask permission, which seemed silly.  So, 
I added:

    Copyright (C) [date] by Rick Moen. Verbatim copying,
    distribution, and display of this entire article are 
    permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved. 

That solved part of the problem, but didn't allow people to "fork"
part or all of the text, and develop those parts separately.  To achieve
that, I appended an alternative clause, Don Marti's "bastard reverse
copyleft":

    Copyright (C) [date] by Rick Moen. Verbatim copying,
    distribution, and display of this entire article are permitted in
    any medium, provided this notice is preserved.  Alternatively, you
    may create derivative works of any sort for any purpose, provided
    they contain no attribution to me.  (Thus, they must differ from
    this work, if only in omitting my name.)

The objective is to protect the integrity of the text if and only if it
purports to be _mine_.  (Both documents say "The most recent version of
this essay can be found at [link]", eliminating the problem of outdated
mirrors.)


Those pages are a (perhaps trivial, or even faintly ridiculous) example
of documents where _both_ artistic integrity and document continuity /
right to fork are desirable.  By contrast, Warren Young's PalmOS
Programmer's FAQ, http://www.cyberport.com/~tangent/palm/faq/ , states:

    These pages are copyrighted. You may read these pages on-line, and
    you may also copy these pages to your local hard disk and read
    them off-line. All other rightsespecially but not limited to public
    display and distributionare reserved by the author.

Young's FAQ forked from Wade Hatler's earlier, unmaintained "Wade's
Pilot Programming FAQ", now vanished from
http://www.wademan.com/Pilot/Program/FAQ.htm , but mirrored at
http://linuxmafia.com/pub/palmos/development/wades-pilot-programming-faq.html
(I may not mirror Young's FAQ.)

Hatler allowed mirroring of his FAQ; Young does not.  I've pointed out
to Young the irony of his text having been possible only courtesy of Hatler's 
permission, but he will not relent:  Third-party PalmOS programmers thus
now are coming to rely on Young's FAQ, even though, if it vanishes from
the Net, they would be prohibited from posting archived copies or new FAQs
based on it.  

If/when that happens, they will simply be SOL.  But at least they'll be
able to fork Hatler's FAQ, again.


http://linuxmafia.com/pub/linux/security/ftp-daemons and 
http://linuxmafia.com/pub/linux/security/ssh-clients are
useful-to-the-community living documents in which, unlike the other two 
essays, I have no investment of authorial vanity.  So, they include:

     Copyright (C) 2000,2001, Rick Moen, rick@linuxmafia.com.

     This information is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
     under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
     the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
     (at your option) any later version.

     This work is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
     but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
     MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
     GNU General Public License for more details.

     You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
     along with this work; if not, write to the Free Software
     Foundation, Inc., 675 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

(Notice that I snipped the usual "or at your option, any later version"
clause.)

RMS frowns on use of the GPL for documents, but I find it eminently
suitable for this particular kind of text.

-- 
Cheers,                                      Right to keep and bear
Rick Moen                                  Haiku shall not be abridged
rick@linuxmafia.com                           Or denied.  So there.



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